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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
August 18, 2017

Superior National Golf Course - Born Again
E. Nolan

New golf courses open every year around the United States. The national publications stumble and stagger over themselves in awe and superlative acclaim of the breakthrough tracks and we pay attention and add some of them to our bucket lists - but NONE of those courses are in Minnesota, so they're not really talking to us... they're not really talking to you. Well, how bout we change all of that? It's your turn Minnesota... I'm talking to you.

You've heard of Lake Superior, right? Biggest freshwater lake in America... that stunningly beautiful - almost an ocean - body of water that runs along the northeastern border of Minnesota... the one with all the spectacular sunrises, the sandy beaches, with the signature Split Rock Lighthouse, Betty's Pies and those World Famous Donuts (in Grand Marais)... with all those amazing coastal resorts. All of that, just a few short scenic car hours north of the Twin Cities - the ultimate summer and fall weekend retreat for all of us. That Lake Superior has a golf course with 27 holes - three nines - 18 of which will be brand new in 2017. Those 18 holes will be brand new in every sense of the word except for the fact that they technically were already there. (But that's not important right now.) How can it be NEW if it was already there? (Okay, so I guess that IS important right now.)

Two words: Jeffrey Brauer. With respect to all the brilliant designer minds out there, I put Mr. Brauer in the conversation with Tom Fazio and Mike Strantz for "best golf course architects ever." My love affair with Brauer's best - the courses at The Wilderness and Giants Ridge - is hardly a secret. I'll drive across the United States to play a Brauer course I haven't played, and when I heard his first nine had opened to play this year - right here in Minnesota - at Superior National, I was there. I didn't need the details - whatever Mr. Brauer touches turns to golf gold - but you might be interested in some of them.

$4.5 million dollars have already been poured into the River and Canyon nines - with the River nine open right now, and the Canyon nine opening next year - and the transformation (sorry, I meant "revelation") is absolutely incredible. Brand new tee boxes, wide carpet fairways with high-tech eco-friendly irrigation systems, expanded, reshaped and dare I say voluptuous greens - the place is amazing - and those views... sure... Lake Superior has always been splendid, but when you look at her from the slopes and platforms of the brilliant River nine at Superior National... she looks outright spectafabulous. (For lack of a better word.) She's never looked so good. (The 2nd hole on the River - over the waterfall - is just stupid awesome.)

Heath Ekstrom, Business Manager and Head Golf Professional at Superior National at Lutsen chooses his words carefully, "I'm confident that with the NEW River and Canyon nines, and the fantastic modifications on the Mountain nine, we're going to be not only a top course in Minnesota, but a NATIONAL Top 100 contender."

I'd call those lofty ambitions if I hadn't seen the course, and didn't know Jeffrey Brauer, personally. But frankly, given what I know of both the builder and his projects, Mr. Ekstrom's expectations are rather meager...rather tempered. And considering none of Brauer's other projects in Minnesota have these views or this diversity of landscape, I'd say the possibilities on regional and national recognition are just about endless. The "trick" is getting people up to Lutsen to check it out.

"We try to make it easy for anyone and everyone," Mr. Ekstrom says. "We work with all the area resorts to create some truly spectacular lakefront packages, and" he smiles, "early bird golfers can even pay with fresh World's Best Donuts."

He's kidding about the fresh donuts exchange (I think) - you wouldn't have any left anyway - but he's serious about getting golfers to Superior National however it takes. Truth is, he shouldn't even have to try. Perhaps I've been a little "loose" with the NEW label I've given the course, but the gentlemen I played the River nine with echoed all of these sentiments and more. "I've played this course every year," John Sullivan (from La Crosse, WI) said, "and yet I barely recognize it this year. It's not just better than ever... it's NEW. What Mr. Bonner has done with this place is beyond amazing." (He meant "Brauer," but I'll pay that compliment forward anyway.)

Imagine what you could do with $4.5 million. Well, that's the best part about the NEW Superior National. Everyone can see exactly what Jeffrey Brauer did with it.

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